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Cleveland, OH Luxury Airliner Crashes, May 1938




Cleveland -- (INS) -- "Simultaneous power failure of both engines" was blamed today by W. A. Patterson, president of United Airlines, for the crash of the line's luxury "Mainliner" near here last night, with a loss of ten lives.

Cleveland -- (INS) -- From the tangled and charred wreckage of a luxurious "Mainliner" and from conflicting reports of witnesses, government and company investigators attempted today to establish the cause of a United Airline plane's crash last night in a muddy, wooded ravine only eight miles from Cleveland airport.
All ten persons aboard the 21-passenger ship -- seven men passengers and a crew of three, including a girl stewardess -- were killed instantly when the plane plunged to earch, at almost exactly the time it was due from Newark at the landing field, 10:15 p.m.
The bodies, burned beyond recognition, were removed from the wreckage by police, firemen and volunteer workers from Cleveland and villages near the scene of the crash. Prompt action by Independence village firemen saved much of the airmail aboard the plane.
William Robertson, department of commerce inspector here, and United Airlines officials headed by William Feiten, Cleveland district manager, launched an immediate investigation. Two other government inspectors from Chicago flew here to join in the investigation, as did other air line officials, including Harold Crary, vice president.
One version of the accident was related by witnesses was that the plane burst into flames in the air. Another was that fire broke out only after it had crashed.
The scene of the crash was a lonely gully, nearly two miles from any road, and eight miles due east of the the airport, in Seven Hills, a village south of Cleveland. Wreckage was strewn for several hundred yards and one wing was torn off entirely and lay some distance from the main part of the plane, indicating it had been sheared off when the craft struck a clump of trees.
The entire area was soaked in recent rains and rescue workers toiled in ankle-deep mud. Word of the crash spread rapidly, and by midnight traffic was tangled for miles around.
Early today the Cleveland police department sent extra crews of officers and blocked off the entire region. Some spectators attempted to tear off bits of the plane for souvenirs, and farmers complained that the tramping crowds were ruining their fields. One farmer threatened to take his shotgun to the crowds.
The list of dead, announced by United Airlines, was:
Pilot JAMES L. "MONTY" BRANDON, Chicago.
Co-Pilot A. S. MERRIFIELD, Los Angeles.
Stewardess MILDRED A. MACEK, 24, Milwaukee.
L. ARTHUR DOTY, 42, Boston.
E. H. VERBLEN, Douglas Aircraft company test piilot, Santa Monica, Cal.
C. F. LICKEL, New York.
R. C. LEWIS, New York.
JOHN BOSTRUEN, Alexander, N.D.
BRANDON, a veteran of 22 years of flying, was one of the best known of American transport pilots.
Scores of residents of Seven Hills, Maple Heights, Independence Village, and other suburban communities to the south of Cleveland reported to investigators that they knew the plane was in trouble from the sound of the motors as it passed over head, dlying unusually low.
Mrs. Mary Selig, wife of the Independence mayor described it as "A whistling sound."
James Doran, 45, of Independence, and several other witnesses told authorities and reporters that they saw the plane burst into fire in the air, and a few minutes later heard the crash.
Airline officials said, however, that what appeared to be flames probably were flares dropped by the pilots in their efforts to land. JAMES WYNEE, radio operator at the airport, reported he saw the plane's landing lights turned on what appeared to be about eight miles from the airport. Suddenly the lights disappeared, he said.
Heat thrown off from the blazing ship was so intense that the first persons to reach the scene were unable to get within a hundred feet of the plane for more than an hour.
Fate decreed that the plane should miss two level fields, one on each side of the gully, which probably would have permitted a safe landing. Conditions of the wreckage indicated that the pilots were attempting to set down the plane because of some difficulty which probably developed only a few minutes before the crash.
At 10:07 p.m., when he was over Parkman, 42 miles from Cleveland, BRANDON made his last radio report to the United Airlines radio station at Cleveland airport. The message transmitted by Co-Pilot MERRIFIELD said:
"MERRIFIELD reporting. Ship over Parkman, Ohio, four thousand feet altitude. Everything O.K."
It was the first air transport crash in the vicinity of the Cleveland airport. United Airlines officials said the deaths were the first passenger fatalities in 42,000 flights, over a period of 11 years, on their New York - Cleveland run.

Milwaukee -- (INS) -- Flying was life -- and death --
to MILDRED MACEK, the 24 year old stewardess, who was one of the ten persons killed in the air crash near Cleveland last night.
Only a week ago she told her aunt, Mrs. Walter K. Moss, with whom she lived here:
"I love flying. I wouldn't give it up for anything."
A registered nurse, she graduated from high school here and obtained her flying job last August. She was recently transferred to the New York - Cleveland run.

Chicago -- (INS) -- "It was part of MONTY'S business. I suppose it had to come."
Thus, quietly pretty MRS. ETHELRAE BRANDON, 28, accepted the news early today that her husband Pilot JAMES L. "MONTY" BRANDON, had met a flaming death in an airliner near Cleveland last night.
After hearing details of the crash, and that BRANDON was found with his death-stiffened hands still clutching for the controls, MRS. BRANDON added with a touch of tragic pride:
"That was like him. It was like him."
BRANDON had been a veteran of the British Royal Flying Corps during the war and had a record of several million miles in the air. He had been with the United Airlines and its predecessor companies for 11 years with never a crack-up.
He was one of the few pilot's with a "1,000,000 mile" record as a transport flier.
He was 41 years old and had been married for five years. He is survived by a son, GEORGE, 2 1/2.

Mansfield News Journal Ohio 1938-05-25

article | by Dr. Radut